US Secret Service agents are apparently terribly impressed by Colombian prostitutes.
I‘m forced to agree.
As you may have heard, Secret Service agents were caught with their pants down, as it were, in the run-up to President Obama’s visit to Colombia last month for the Summit of the Americas. After entertaining – or, more accurately, I suppose, being entertained by — several local prostitutes, one Secret Service agent decided he wasn’t pleased with the price and refused to pay. Said prostitute declined to take that lying down and made a wee bit of a fuss, which, of course, subsequently became international news.
This week, just as high ranking US officials were busily proclaiming that this was a one-time, completely isolated incident, three DEA agents were exposed for hiring their own gaggle of girls.
Apparently Colombian hookers rock. I, of course, had to find out why.
Now don’t get carried away. I didn’t bed them, or try to stiff them out of any money. But I did chat with a couple in a local bar, and decided almost immediately I liked them.
Prostitution is legal in Colombia, which it is not in puritanical, theocratic counties like Saudi Arabia, Iran and the United States. In Colombia the girls are safer, cleaner, and their profession generates tax revenues for the state. In the US the girls walk unsafe streets, their clients have no way to know how many diseases they’re carrying, and the state spends countless resources investigating and arresting men merely out looking for a blowjob and the women willing to sell them.
The Colombian ones also have a great attitude about their chosen profession, and are quite willing to laugh at themselves.
When I asked them their thoughts about the Secret Service sex scandal, they laughed and told me it made them feel quite superior. Said one girl, “In America you get in trouble if you f**k with the FBI. In Colombia, we do it all the time.”
See? Gotta like them.
Colombia’s capital city surprised me as much as its hookers. (At least once I got there. The endless lines at immigration took more than an hour to navigate, and the chaos outside the airport made finding a taxi challenging.) But once I got free of the airport mayhem and headed into the city, I was happily impressed.
Colombia has suffered a rocky history. In 1824, less than a decade after becoming an independent nation, what is now Venezuela and Ecuador peeled off and formed countries of their own. Nearly a century later, the United States, eager to build and control the Panama Canal, conspired to pluck off Colombia’s northern-most province and create the county of Panama.
Colombia’s first civil war began three decades after gaining independence from Spain, and civil wars of one sort or another have raged fairly regularly ever since.
In recent times Colombia is best known as the supplier of much of the world’s cocaine. Most Americans would have an easier time identifying Pablo Escobar than finding Colombia on the map. And I’m embarrassed to admit that my own expectations for Bogotá were based more on Hollywood hype than reality. I’m pleased to have been so very wrong.
Colombia’s capital city is beautiful, modern and thriving. My colleague and I walked all over the place, never once feeling unsafe. We wandered through the Plaza de Bolívar, the heart of old-town Bogotá, which is straddled by the gorgeous, two-century-old Archbishopric Cathedral of Bogotá, the National Capitol Building and the Palace of Justice. The entire place was abuzz with activity, teeming with hordes of tourists, llama-keepers offering them rides and more hungry pigeons than I’ve ever seen. It’s gorgeous and a must-see for any first-time visitor to Bogotá.
From there we ducked into a local spot for lunch. The hole-in-the-wall was at the end of an alley just off the north east side of the square, and though I never got the name, the food was delicious. David and I shared bandeja paisas, a local specialty, spiced with peppers and onions.
Next we popped into the Botero Museum, home to sculptures and paintings by famed Colombian artist Fernando Botero. Lovers of art will forgive me here, but as is so often the case when I encounter “great art,” I just don’t get it. Where others gawk in wonder, I stand confused, muttering “huh?” to myself repeatedly.
Botero likes to paint fat people. Never mind whether the people in question were fat when he found them – by the time they hit his canvas they’re huge. Among Botero’s creations was a fat Mona Lisa, a fat Charlie Chaplin and a fat Jesus being beaten by a fat Nazi.
There was also a sculpture of a fat naked women being sensually mounted by a swan.
I don’t get it.
While silently scolding myself for wasting 30 minutes of my life inspecting zoftig art, I took the tram to the top of Monserrate, the picturesque mountain dominating the Bogotá landscape.
Monserrate is home to a 17th century church, lots of religious statues, a couple of wonderful restaurants, a bathroom you must pay to use and the most stunning views of the sun setting over Bogotá. Perhaps a Wednesday afternoon in late May is not peak season, but I was surprised and delighted by how few tourists there were. We had the place practically to ourselves.
We ended our day in Bogotá at Andrés DC, the four-story restaurant and bar that is perhaps Bogotá’s most famous. Even on a Wednesday night we waited 40 minutes for a table.
It was worth every minute. The food was absolutely delicious, expertly spiced, and the service every bit as good. Three staff members assisted us, recommending dishes and drinks, and it was one of the best meals I can remember having in a long time, though I ate so much Mr. Botero might not have to exaggerate if he painted me right now.